By Vijitha Yapa
There are many who write on the subject of leadership. Some pen autobiographies while others commission biographies. What I found fascinating about this book is that Michael Smith writes about regular folks who have faced difficult situations but overcome them with the help of having the right perspective, determination and a positive attitude.
He describes how individuals tapped into their own values and created positive changes, by using ethical values and sustainable business practices to guide them. Though the phrase ‘As I am so is my nation’ sounds good, it’s sometimes difficult to practise but Smith cites several instances where this maxim has succeeded.
The purpose of the book is to highlight the human motivation that leads to positive changes in organisations in the context of global problems such as human, environmental, social, cultural and political challenges – and how such motivation can be incubated, encouraged and nurtured, at the individual and organisational levels.
Some 60 case studies are analysed in the book and they provide examples of ethical best practices that inspire people and organisations. Smith emphasises that the way things are done is as important as what’s done.
There are some who say they aren’t interested in the global economy; but Smith points out that the global economy is very interested in them.
Though it was US President Donald Trump who highlighted the concept of ‘fake news,’ it isn’t new. Pope Francis I once quipped that the first fake news was when the serpent reassured Eve that disobeying God was acceptable. Which reminds me of a funny version of the story I heard the other day…
What would have happened if Adam and Eve were Chinese? The answer is brilliant: they would have eaten the serpent and ignored the apple!
The imbalance between income and distribution is a key factor. In a 2018 briefing paper, Oxfam noted that 80 percent of the world’s wealth created the previous year flowed into the coffers of the world’s wealthiest one percent. Credit Suisse also reported that in 2017, the world’s richest 42 people owned the same wealth as the poorest half of humanity.
In 2050, 10 billion people are expected to benefit from technological breakthroughs that are emerging from the Fourth Industrial Revolution that’s underway.
But Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser cautions that if we get it wrong, society will be divided into winners and losers; social unrest and anarchy will rise; the glue that holds societies and communities together will disintegrate; and citizens will no longer believe that their governments can enforce the rule of law and provide security.
Judging by events in Sri Lanka, one doesn’t need to wait until 2050 to witness such chaos. It’s evident whenever doctors resort to strike action… and when pandemonium permeated parliament last October.
The violation of cabinet secrets is a punishable offence but we have a president who informs the public of what transpired at cabinet meetings. Where is Sri Lanka heading? One fears that our national leaders of all hues don’t know or care as long as cash and power flow in their direction.
Whistleblower Paul Moore – who was dismissed by the Halifax division of the Bank of Scotland – says there’s a need for far-reaching reforms in the global financial system backed by an Arab Spring of public opinion. He believes that the pervasive culture in the developed world of ‘me, more, now’ – where GDP and continuous economic growth seem to be the only mantras – is not the true path.
“We have lost our way in a sea of greed and vanity,” he asserts.
Smith says that for leadership with integrity, there must be a culture of trust. He concentrates on five pillars for effectiveness in business and the economy: integrity, sustainability, purpose, stewardship and cooperation. Each pillar is illustrated with practical examples of what works.
True stories in the book are highlighted because they’re motivated by personal integrity and a commitment to do the right thing. He writes about a world where the emphasis is on relationships rather than human resources. This is an intriguing concept, as many companies have departments devoted to the latter.
The author also emphasises the eight Cs of trust (contracts, competence, covenants, character, conscience, commitment, courage and change) and presents practical examples of those who have followed these guidelines.
This is a remarkable book that’s ideal for both corporate leaders and politicians; they need to read, digest, learn and implement the suggestions in it.